Monday, July 5, 2010

Tour de France: Stage 2

When a crash occurs in a bike race, you see something you don't see in any other sport ... total and complete confusion. One moment all's well -- and then wham! There's a crash and no one knows what's going on, including the t.v. commentators.

Who crashed and who made it through unscathed? Who's in the newly formed mini-groups? Where are the favorites? Which riders have slowed and are waiting for their teammates to catch up? Sometimes the team leaders simply have no clue where their colleagues are on the road.

That's what happened today on the decent of the Stockeau. You can read a great summary of it on the Velonews website here.

Chaos like this actually produces a very human moment in cycling. Everyone is focused on one thing ... reestablishing some sense of order in a frenzied situation.

So I understand why Fabian Cancellara neutralized the stage by convincing his fellow riders to slow down the peloton. Bike racing is not like football where what happens on the field simply happens. Riders can make choices; they can agree to impose a sense of fairness when too much bad luck affects too many riders. It's part of the sport, when used sensibly. In this case, a motorbike crashed trying to avoid Francesco Gavazzi's fallen bicycle, spilling oil on the road. That's an extreme situation, which led to an uncontrollable chain reaction of crashing bikes.

But too many "gentleman's agreements" means it's no longer a bike race. Team Cervelo was unhappy with the neutralization, and they have every right to be. Thor Hushovd could have pulled off a good sprint for second place, earning valuable Green Jersey points. So no one was right here, and no one was wrong. It's the beauty of bike racing ... there are grey areas, just like life.

But one thing was clear ... Sylvain Chavanel earned every thread of that yellow jersey! He attacked and attacked for 187K, never giving up. He got ahead of all the chaos that would later strike the peloton, and he rode brilliantly. So congrats, Sylvain! My painting for today pays tribute to the forested roads of Stage 2, the rainy skies that caused so much havoc, and the lone breakaway:

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